Farm Credit Canada has a new District Director based in Yorkton.
While born and raised in Saskatchewan, Toby Frisk is experiencing agriculture on a different scale than he has been used too having been with FCC out of Surrey, B.C. for nearly a decade.
“It was very different from here,” said Frisk, who started in his new position July 2. “A typical farm in that area would be 30 acres of blueberries. I overlooked a blueberry farm where I worked.”
Cranberry bogs are also prevalent in the area of B.C. Frisk said, most of the producers involved with Ocean Spray through a vertical integration system which means higher returns for the fruit, than that received by producers outside the Ocean Spray system.
And those acres for blueberries and cranberries are high value ones.
Frisk said a blueberry farm would typically trade between $40-$80,000 an acre.
With the high value Frisk said such farms are intensive.
“They make every inch count,” he said.
Asked if the prices were buoyed by urban encroachment demand, Frisk said in British Columbia there is an Agricultural Land Reserve which legislates “agricultural land must stay agricultural land. You can’t buy a blueberry field and turn it into condominiums.”
Frisk said there are provisions for municipalities needing to expand, a process where they find land not under the ALR and trade those acres for land close to their city limits for annexation, but in general farmland is protected for farm use only.
Back in Saskatchewan farms are large, and typically getting larger, said Frisk.
“This (area) is what I would call a model of dryland grain production,” he said, adding there is some diversity with cattle.
Frisk said in general farms in the area, he oversees offices in Humboldt, Tisdale and Swan River too, have been getting larger in terms of acres, adding “there is continued growth” taking place. He said typically producers locally “don’t sit still” with many actively looking to add acres.
“I’m amazed at the size of our farms, the sheer scope and investment in agriculture,” he said. He noted even an average farm has a capital investment in the millions when land and machinery are factored in. “It’s big business. It’s big dollars. Big numbers.”
Frisk said there is a large input investment in planting each crop too. Canola, an an example, costing upwards of $300 an acre if maximizing fertilizer and crop protection products.
“That’s big dollars too,” he said, adding once a crop is planted “that’s risk too,” as the crop relies on nature to ultimately produce a crop.
But with solid crops and prices the last few years, and an excellent crop being harvested this year, the mood is good among producers, said Frisk, adding that has pushed land demand.
“I hear from my team its (land prices) definitely trending upward,” he said. In some pockets that has meant land trading near $2000 an acre, and quarter section process of $200,000 common.
“We’re even seeing interest in land deals at this time of year,” said Frisk, adding “that’s very untraditional.”
Frisk admitted land can’t reasonably produce to cover its current cost, but it becomes an asset in a large farm unit which is able to bare the cost over a number of years.
“That’s the business of it now,” he said, adding land additions can create efficiencies spreading other costs, such as machinery “over the maximum acres.”
“There are those efficiencies that you gain.”
As a result of being very crop focused, the success of a given year correlates to the price of grains and oilseeds as a commodity.
“When crops are are good, business is very good for us,” said Frisk. He added it’s the same scenario where good crops and good prices are good for businesses in urban communities throughout the region.
Frisk said looking at the crops now being harvested, and the interest from producers in production unit growth, the mood among farmers is good.
“I think it’s very optimistic. That’s what I’ve been told by our team and our clients,” he said.